Evan Silva


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Matchups: Ravens Riding Rice

Friday, December 09, 2011

1:00PM ET Games

Indianapolis @ Baltimore

Something changed in Baltimore after the Ravens' Week 10 loss in Seattle, because the offensive philosophy has been entirely different since. Whereas Joe Flacco averaged 40 attempts a game during the season's initial nine weeks, he hasn't exceeded 27 during the club's three-game win streak. Over the past three games, the Ravens' run-to-pass ratio is a smash-mouth 118-74, and Ray Rice is on fire as the No. 1 overall fantasy back during that span. Expect Rice to stay hot and Baltimore's offense conservative against a Colts defense that ranks 30th against the run and may be minus MLB Pat Angerer (knee). Rice is the No. 1 fantasy running back play in Week 14. ... Ricky Williams came off the bench for season highs in carries (16) and yards (76) in Week 13, and the production wasn't all in garbage time. He had six rushing attempts and 43 yards at the half. The Ravens appear to be firing up a two-pronged, ground-based attack, and it's reasonable to believe Williams could emerge from a second straight game with worthwhile flex value. Just keep in mind that Williams is no lock for an extensive workload because he's rarely received them all year, and he offers minimal upside. Rice is the heavy favorite for all goal-line work in Baltimore.

Just as Rice's value peaks, Flacco's is in the gutter. He's become a more talented version of Alex Smith. Flacco's receivers should be open against a Colts secondary that lost top corner Jerraud Powers (elbow) and slot CB Terrence Johnson (forearm) to injured reserve this week, but will he even throw 20 times? Flacco has been removed from standard fantasy league consideration. ... Indy's defense is built to stop big plays, the bread and butter of Torrey Smith's game. This isn't a good week to use him. ... Behind Rice, Anquan Boldin is the strongest Week 14 fantasy bet on Baltimore's roster. The smallish Colts struggle to stop big wideouts. ... Ed Dickson is averaging three targets per game since the aforementioned Seahawks loss, spending most of his time blocking. The over/under on his Week 14 targets should be either two or three. Look elsewhere.

Dan Orlovsky's 30-for-37, 353-yard Week 13 stat line is deceptive because the Patriots fielded a farm-team defense against the Colts. They started street free agent Nathan Jones, wideout/return specialist Matt Slater, and James Ihedigbo in a three-safety package, with special teamer Niko Koutouvides at linebacker. Per Pro Football Focus, Slater played 71-of-74 snaps despite entering the game having not played a defensive down since his days at UCLA five years ago. No Colts receiver had more than 22 yards until second-half comeback mode. The Ravens will take this game far more seriously than the Patriots did, while decisively winning the time-of-possession battle. If you are starting Pierre Garcon or Reggie Wayne, you are banking on a throw-happy deficit to carry their numbers. And they're not facing backups for the NFL's worst pass defense anymore. Baltimore ranks fifth against the pass. ... Dallas Clark is due back from his fibula injury after a four-week absence. Neither Clark nor Jacob Tamme is a fantasy option against a Ravens defense that has allowed one touchdown to a tight end all season -- Evan Moore's Week 13 garbage-time score. ... Just as Donald Brown appeared to be taking over as Indianapolis' feature back, Joseph Addai returned healthy in Week 13 and the two split time right down the middle with Delone Carter also seeing an increased role. This is an obvious fantasy situation to avoid against Baltimore's No. 2 run defense.

Score Prediction: Ravens 21, Colts 3

Minnesota @ Detroit

It's no secret that the Vikings are struggling to stop the pass, having lost their top two corners (Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook) and best cover safety (Husain Abdullah) for the season. Over the past seven games, opposing quarterbacks have completed 146-of-205 passes (71.2%) against Minnesota for 1,808 yards (8.82 YPA), 18 touchdowns, and no interceptions. The Vikings have not picked off a pass since Week 5. The Lions have lost three of their past four games, but this mismatch should get them back on track. Detroit has a top-five passing offense, and Minnesota a bottom-six pass defense. Expect a big game for Matthew Stafford. ... Calvin Johnson's production has slowed a bit recently due to double and triple teaming, but this matchup couldn't set up better for Megatron. In his last six games against the Vikings, Johnson has piled up 33 receptions, 468 receiving yards, and five touchdowns, good for an average line of nearly 6-80-1. And Minnesota's secondary has never been this far from full strength during Megatron's career. ... Nate Burleson's on-field performance has left plenty to be desired, but he appears to have re-overtaken Brandon Pettigrew as Stafford's primary target over the middle. Showing consistency again with at least five catches in four straight games, Burleson is somewhat appealing as a WR3 in PPR leagues.

Pettigrew hasn't exceeded 50 yards since Week 4, staying on the line more to block and running not nearly as many routes as Burleson. Here is Stafford's target distribution since the Lions' Week 9 bye: Megatron 43, Burleson 31, Pettigrew 26, Maurice Morris 20, Titus Young 17, Tony Scheffler 16, Kevin Smith 16. ... Scheffler and Young are big-play threats, but fifth and sixth options in the passing game. ... The Lions would be smart to give Smith a week to let his ankle heal after a Week 13 setback. He could return as a recommended RB2 against the Raiders in Week 15. Instead, Smith is apparently going to give it a go against the Vikings, which will probably result in another three-way running back committee also involving Morris and Keiland Williams. Smith is a poor bet to last two quarters, Morris is a sorry excuse for a running back, and the Vikings have a top-seven defense in terms of yards-per-carry allowed. This is an obvious week to avoid the Lions’ backfield, even if Smith is scratched Sunday morning.


UPDATE: Smith did attempt to practice Friday, but couldn't make cuts on his troublesome ankle and left before the session ended. He is not expected to play against Minnesota. Morris and Williams will handle backfield duties. Morris is a deep PPR league option only in a difficult matchup.

The Lions played top-five pass defense in the season's first half, but they're no longer an imposing matchup without top interior pass rusher Ndamukong Suh (suspension), FS Louis Delmas (knee), nickel DE Lawrence Jackson (thigh), and CB Chris Houston (knee). In a possible shootout under the Ford Field dome, Christian Ponder is a high-upside QB2. I like the over on Vegas' 46.5-point projection for this game. ... Here is Ponder's target distribution during the last five weeks: Percy Harvin 38, Devin Aromashodu 36, Visanthe Shiancoe 22, Kyle Rudolph 14. ... Aromashodu saw a year-high 15 targets in Week 13 as the Vikings attacked Broncos RCB Andre' Goodman. Ponder only threw at Champ Bailey six times, completing two. Aromashodu is averaging over 20 yards per reception and has tools for the vertical passing game, but has only one touchdown on the year and has cleared 45 receiving yards once in the past seven games. It is still somewhat conceivable that Aromashodu could finish on a more consistent note with Michael Jenkins (knee) on injured reserve.

The Vikings are calling Ponder's (hip) status a game-time decision, and the above take stands if he is able to start. We'll know his availability early Sunday. Aromashodu and the tight ends' start-ability will go in the gutter if Ponder doesn't play, but there is reason to believe Harvin can maintain high-end WR3 value, at the very least. In Webb's two starts late last season, Harvin posted stat lines of 7-100 and 8-69 while leading Minnesota in targets (22). Webb has attempted 91 career passes, intending 29 for Harvin. The "target rate" of 31.9% would lead the NFL this season. Don't forget that the Vikings' staff has featured Harvin offensively with Adrian Peterson (ankle) at less than 100%, and that won't change just because the quarterback might be different. ... Peterson appears likely to return from his high ankle sprain after practicing on Thursday and rebounding well enough to practice again on Friday. He has recovered ahead of schedule; this is not a matter of the Vikings “pushing” Peterson to play. If Peterson is active – regardless of Ponder’s availability – he’s an obvious RB1 against Detroit’s No. 22 run defense. Toby Gerhart would resume non-factor status.

Score Prediction: Lions 30, Vikings 19

Kansas City @ NY Jets

Shonn Greene busted his scoring slump with a career-high three touchdowns in last week's 34-19 dismantling of the Redskins, and may quietly be poised for a hot finish. The Jets close the fantasy season against the Chiefs (No. 25 run defense), Eagles (No. 17), and Giants (23) in three outdoor games that may be affected by unsavory East Coast weather. Greene also happens to be playing well, racking up 454 yards on his last 94 carries (4.83 YPC) while LaDainian Tomlinson (knee) and Joe McKnight (elbow) have battled injuries. Greene should be a reliable, if low-end RB2 the rest of the way. ... The Chiefs have the NFL's weakest safeties, so it probably comes as little surprise that they've served up a league-most eight touchdowns to tight ends. While Dustin Keller has been an unreliable fantasy contributor since the season's first three weeks, this is a favorable matchup for him. He's worth a look for Fred Davis (suspension) owners, in particular.

Mark Sanchez is currently the No. 11 overall fantasy quarterback, although Michael Vick, Tim Tebow, and Carson Palmer rank lower due to playing-time differentials and are all better plays than him. Sanchez remains a two-QB league starter against K.C.'s top-twelve pass defense. ... Santonio Holmes will spend most of this game in Chiefs LCB Brandon Flowers' coverage, giving Holmes a difficult matchup. He's just a WR3 option. ... Plaxico Burress gets a more favorable draw against RCB Brandon Carr. Plax has better potential for a big performance than Holmes.

At the same time the Chiefs' backfield is morphing into a three-way committee led by washed-up Thomas Jones, Kansas City is set to square off with a Jets defense shutting down run games. New York has allowed two touchdowns to tailbacks since Week 5, over that span permitting 543 yards on 159 carries (3.41 YPC) to the position. Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle, and Jones can be safely left out of Week 14 fantasy lineups. Jones has zero touchdowns on the year, Battle's role has dwindled, and McCluster's Week 13 score came on a 38-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half. McCluster is 5-foot-8, so it required Brian Urlacher batting the pass directly into the pint-sized scatback's arms for McCluster to come down with the ball. It doesn't get flukier than that. ... Per Pro Football Focus, Darrelle Revis has allowed 25-of-62 throws in his direction to be complete this season for 362 yards (5.84 YPA) and one touchdown. (Stevie Johnson was the lucky one.) Dwayne Bowe can expect to see plenty of Revis in coverage and is a dicey fantasy bet with the Chiefs starting Tyler Palko again. ... Steve Breaston has scored a touchdown in 1-of-12 games. Jonathan Baldwin has not topped 26 yards since Week 8. In the first round of the fantasy playoffs, it wouldn't be a bad idea to avoid the entire Chiefs roster against New York's top-seven defense.

Score Prediction: Jets 23, Chiefs 7

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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